How New Is "New"? How Improved Is "Improved"?
The people who keep advertisers honest.
I find it surprisingly reassuring that someone out there is making sure this stuff is on the level. "When a major brand makes a claim," says Levine, "consumers can feel comfortable that it's been vetted. If it isn't truthful or accurate, it will end up in our office pretty fast. Competitors will bring it to our attention." The lone exception: industries where every brand's interest is to lie. When it comes to things like weight loss and hair loss, it's less likely one sham product will call out another, so NAD is forced to take more of the burden on itself.
I say burden, but in fact it sounds like an amazingly fun job. NAD lawyers study the minutiae of every product brought before them. "It's fascinating," says Levine. "One day we're talking to the world's foremost authority on calcium. The next day we're figuring out what makes people's feet stink. The day after that, we're sticking forks in bowls of chili to see if they actually stay standing up. You should come by our office—we'll try to have you in when we've just received a case of vodka to test, instead of a case of feminine hygiene products."
Got an ad you love, hate, or can't for the life of you understand? Send your requests to email@example.com.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.